Wellington R1646 - Glen Clunie

Profiles of the crew onboard

Sergeant Harry Joseph 'Joe' Kelley, RCAF

'Joe' Kelley

Harry Joseph 'Joe' Kelley was born on the first day of February 1918 in Lakawanna, New York, USA, son of Harry Joseph and Helen V Kelley (nee O'Malley). His father worked in the steel industry and the family moved to Nova Scotia, Canada when he was offered the position of General Manager at the Dominion Steel and Coal Corp. in Sydney, he was later to become Vice President of the company. Joe had two brothers, Frank and Bill who also served in the RCAF and two sisters, Betty and Jane.

Education for Joe started at St Joseph's school in Sydney. He later attended Layola College and McGill University, Montreal where he studied commerce and science. He was a Cadet with the Canadian Officers Training Corps (COTC) at both College and University. In 1939, while studying at McGill, Joe also took a course given by the RCAF to COTC in air navigation, aero engines, airmanship and theory of flight.

During the summer holidays (vacations) from College and University Joe spent his time working at the Dominion Steel and Coal Corp as an Accountant in 1936 and 1937 then as a Chemist from 1938-1940.

In October 1940, Joe joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He arrived at No.2 Manning Depot (2 MD), Brandon, Manitoba on 24th and commenced his basic training. After completion of the course he spent several weeks at No.11 Equipment Depot (11 ED), Calgary before being posted to No.2 Initial Training School (No.2 ITS), Regina, Sask on 28th January 1941, completing the course here on 3rd March. Training continued at No.3 Air Observors School (3 AOS), Regina where they flew in Avro Anson aircraft . 27th May saw Joe arrive at No.2 Bombing and Gunnery School (2 BGS), Mossbank the aircraft used during training here were Fairy Battles. No.1 Advanced Navigation School (1 AOS), Rivers, Manitoba was to be home for Joe from 9th July to 5th August. Here he learned techniques such as astro navigation once again training in Avro Ansons. On completion of 1 AOS, Joe was posted to No.1 'Y' Depot, Halifax to await his overseas posting. On 23rd August he was posted to RAF Training Pool and left Canada to complete the final stage of his training in Britain. On arrival in England, Joe reported to No.3 Personnel Reception Centre (3 PRC) in Bournemouth where after a wait of four weeks he was instructed to report to No.11 Operational Training Unit (11 OTU) at Bassingbourne. This was where he would start training alongside other aircrew learning to be a member of a bomber crew flying Wellington Bombers. After several months at 11 OTU, Joe was posted to another OTU in Scotland, and arrived at 20 OTU, Lossiemouth on 6th January 1942. Two weeks later, on 19th January, he was killed during a routine training flight.

Initially the aircraft and crew were posted as 'Missing', and it wasn't until Friday 27th February that the wreckage of the Wellington was located on a snow covered mountainside near Braemar in Aberdeenshire. Joe was buried at Dyce Old Churchyard on the outskirts of Aberdeen on 2nd March.

News of his death was received by his father, Harry, while travelling to Montreal by train on business. On receiving the news he got off the train at Truro and returned home to the family in Sydney who were all devastated at the loss of a son.

Joe was awarded a posthumous Bachelor of Science degree by McGill University. It was received on his behalf by his father, Harry Kelley at the McGill University graduation ceremony on May 27th 1942.

Old Kirk at Dyce Churchyard
Grave of H J Kelley
Commonwealth War Graves cross at Dyce Churchyard

My grateful thanks to the relatives of Joe Kelley for information and images on this page. Thanks also to Floyd Williston in Canada for tracing the Kelley family and for his assistance with information for this page.
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© Linzee Druce 2002-2012